There is a great difference in excellency, usefulness, and comfort between people of clear, digested knowledge, and confused, undigested apprehensions. -Richard Baxter

dig deep…with help

The benefit of the sacraments is tied in no small way to the self-examination that accompanies their partaking and/or witnessing. Sharing in the bread and (wine) necessitates an inner review; the sign of baptism is meant to cause us to reconsider our own baptisms anew. So it’s worth entering into the work of self-examination with a little more structure perhaps. Introspection can easily run aground into either a very superficial consideration of self or a far too belabored, encumbering, paralyzing exercise. Jonathan Edwards preached an entire sermon on what is the nature, purpose, and manner of self-examination taking the Psalmist’s request of God to “search me, O, God” (PS 139) as his starting point. It’s not short and sweet but it is rich.

What has to circumscribe our exercise of self-examination is an abiding belief that is the Spirit of God who accompanies you. The Spirit does not take lightly our sin or our unwitting cherishing of it; that’s why we have to be patient in the process and willing to face things that may deeply sober us (sorta like Scrooge being led about by the various ghosts to see difficult things). But we also have to remember the Spirit doesn’t take us by the hand through this process and then simply cut us loose to go figure out the remedy ourselves. He is like the physician whose job it is not only to diagnose pathologies but also prescribe treatments.

It is never a waste of time to ask yourself why you do what you do. Self-examination brings that more sharply into focus. And in those moments where no explanation can be found as to what prompts those responses–those self-aggrandizing or cold-hearted habits–but the nature we have inherited from Adam (for which we remain responsible), we lay ourselves upon the Spirit’s surgical table, as it were, and ask for Him to excise what we cannot (and often would not) do.

I commend to you Edward’s treatise on looking inward. It’s worth printing out and keeping in a safe place that you might refer back to it regularly.


  Small Groups Nazi wrote @

Not to ride what is possibly a dead horse from a previous discussion (and probably is), but I do believe that the accountability of Christian brother/sister who truly knows us is vital to the process of self-examination. While sometimes it is painful to hear, convicting, and down-right frustrating, I value the way some of my friends challenge and even rebuke me in my sin patterns.

The book of James says to confess our sins to one another, pray for one another (5:16). Scripture is full of commands of how to relate together: encourage, equip, confess, speak truthfully… love.

Sorry for the long comment, but it frustrates me. Can we truly say we love if we never confront sin? Or, can we truly grow in Christ without responding to the confrontation from those who love us? It truly baffles me that if we are constantly reminded in Scripture to be about seeking Christ’s face in our brothers and sisters that we remain so willing to look the other way when Christ is not glorified in them.

  Patrick Lafferty wrote @

call it an abdication of responsibility (otherwise known as an abdication of love) to refrain from offering a fitting word of loving rebuke. Doctors diagnose pathologies. Lawyers identify breaches in the law. Engineers locate weaknesses in levies. It’s not as if we’d be out of place to notice faults in one another. Our problem is that we’ve lost the courage to call a fault a fault.

  Seth wrote @

Part of the question to me is, when is it an abdication/sin? And when is it not our responsibility?

During his ministry, Christ certainly didn’t call out everyone’s sin (he wouldn’t have made it very far in his ministry if he did). And he didn’t call out every sin of every individual (he never would have made it past the 1st person!). Off the cuff, he normally let the individual confront the sin on their own, whether through parables or asking them questions.

Which makes me wonder, whose sins do we call out, and how often do we call them out??

(On a side note, I don’t think those questions are why most people don’t confront. It’s not as if they’re not sure who to call out and can’t identify the sins in their brothers. The lack of courage, as Patrick said, seems to be a greatest reason. That, and the fear that once they start loving their brothers, their brothers might start loving them.)

  chimchim wrote @

I know that sometimes I’d rather just have a good time with my friends, which is selfish. That takes less effort than the complications that can come with “rebuke.” There’s a lot of hurt in the church from people and their rebukes, when they go wrong. I believe that is the enemy trying to make us complacent so that we stop rebuking each other. I feel like godly convictions between friends make relationships more intimate and rewarding, but we soemtimes stay on a surface level because it is safe. Makes me angry that the enemy can even keep the best of friends from being closer and we don’t realize it.

  Patrick Lafferty wrote @

on the 16th, I plan to have us explore what church discipline is, why it’s important, why we’re averse to even thinking about it, and what it might look like in our context…there’s so much that militates against this in our own souls and in the way we “do church.”

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